I am a list writer. I do it by hand. Every day. Sometimes three or four times a day, if I’m feeling really overwhelmed.

Lists are a great way to force yourself to prioritize your life. When you read lists of why people fail, it’s clear that writing a list of goals every day will make your more successful at reaching them.

But a lot of days, I think the motivator for me is not being a successful person. I just like the act of writing the list. I do it every morning, before I start work. And it’s calming, like a meditation.

It also helps me to see my day — and when I write big goals, my life. There is a discipline that comes with rewriting every morning. You know those things that you keep on your list forever but never get to? You face reality much sooner if you rewrite by hand. The repetition of rewriting something that will never happen starts to get to you. You leave it off.

I am not alone in the idea of writing by hand to gain focus. Dave Wirtschafter, president of William Morris Agency said in an interview in Fortune magazine: “I believe in writing down anything important by hand. I don’t now whether it’s staring at the piece of paper or the physical exercise of moving the pen. Whatever it is, the information seems to really stay in my head and make me more focused.”

If you don’t do this, I recommend that you give it a try. Get rid of your electronic list for a week and see what happens. Henriette Klauser says that if you write down what you want the commitment you give to the writing of the goal will actually help you commit to making the goal come true. I think there’s some truth to that. And maybe you should check out her book, Write It Down, Make it Happen.

But maybe what you should do is just buy some good paper and good pens. I like to use notebooks of graph paper. I think the boxes make me feel more organized than just horizontal lines. And I use pens that ooze ink. You can’t underestimate the importance of feeling the pen sail on the paper.

Don’t tell me you’re too busy. The mere act of devoting time each day to your list is an acknowledgment of the importance of your prioritizing, goal-setting, and focus in your life.

I loved Ryan’s post about helicopter parents because, like many changes generation Y brings to the workplace, helicopter parents force me to see how much the dynamics of the workplace have changed and how what’s appropriate at work today is different than what was appropriate only two or three years ago.

The hardest parts about writing about generation Y is seeing all the benefits they have that I didn’t have. As a member of generation X, I graduated from college into such a bad market that we invented the word McJob. Now we never use that word because there is no reason for a young person to take a bad job –the job market for young people is better than it has ever been, maybe in the history of jobs.

This means that young people are in a position to negotiate for non-salaried benefits that would have been unthinkable to young people in other generations — extra vacation, tuition reimbursements, telecommuting. In earlier generations, if young people negotiated hard in entry level jobs, they would have been shown the door. Today, companies are so desperate to keep top young talent that almost anything is open for negotiation.

I know from my own experience that senior executives regularly use lawyers to negotiate their pay packages because non-salary perks are so difficult to negotiate. On top of that, if you use a lawyer to negotiate then you avoid starting out your job in a contentious way with your future co-workers. Today young people need this same benefit because they also are negotiating for a wide range of non-salary perks.

Young people can’t afford lawyers, and would, under other circumstances have to have a contentious negotiation over non-salary perks before starting work. But with parents providing a negotiating agent for the lower ranks, the workplace is more fair, less rankist, and that should make everyone happy.

Additionally, the fact that parents are meddling in interviews also strikes me as not so bad. (And, by the way, I am not alone — many companies, and colleges, allow this to go on without holding it against the candidate.)

The very rich, very well connected people have been shepherding their kids through their first jobs forever. The dad calls his friend and his friend calls a friend and one friend does the coaching and the other friend does the hiring and then it starts all over again. With a golf game or two thrown in.

The not-as-very-rich (but still rich) hire branding consultants who specialize in recent grads, and the consultants do practice interviews for five or ten hours at $200 an hour.

Helicopter parents simply bring these rich-kid practices out into the open and into the ranks of the middle class. Seems like a great turn of events to me.

When rich kids get benefits from their parents stepping in and getting things for them in adult life, we never complain about independence. We complain about other things, like unfair benefits of being rich. But, for example, when Donald Trump hired his daughter Ivanka Trump (without even making her attempt an interview!) I don’t remember uproar over independence.

So maybe a closer look at the hoop-la over helicopter parents reveals simmering rankism and classism issues underneath.

By Ryan Healy — Recently, I have seen a slew of articles about helicopter parents. Parents of millennials are becoming very involved in the job search process. These parents feel they have the right to call their child’s company to discuss benefits and relocation packages and even negotiate salary. I think this is great.When Brady Quinn, the star quarterback from Notre Dame, was finally drafted by the Browns in last weeks NFL draft, I can guarantee his agent was on the phone with the team negotiating Brady’s salary, benefits and any other perks an NFL quarterback might receive.

An NFL quarterback, or any athlete for that matter, would never dream of negotiating for themselves. Agents have the experience and maturity to know what their client deserves and they have the practiced skills to negotiate the best deal. Why are newly minted college grads expected to do the wheeling and dealing involved in a job search, with little to no guidance?

Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t possibly find an agent to represent me in my job search. The 5% cut of Brady Quinn’s salary that an agent receives is probably more than my salary for the next three years.

But what could be better than having my parents represent me? Not only do they have my best interests in mind and want to see me succeed, but they have the experience. Most parents of millenniels have been in the corporate world for years. They have seen first hand; downsizings, layoffs, and corporate restructurings. They have probably held multiple jobs, and negotiated their own salary and benefit packages.

Parents are skeptical of corporate America for good reason. They don’t exactly trust companies to provide their children with well paid, safe and secure jobs. Many of these parents are probably baby boomers who would love to retire soon. They spent hundreds of thousands of hard earned dollars on an education for their children to land a great job. And they expect their children to at least have the resources to return the favor and help support them in retirement and old age.

I have every intention of returning this favor and helping my parents out. But as a new college graduate, it is just not possible to know very much about salaries, stock options, Pension Plans, 401K’s, Health Insurance or anything else you quickly learn when you leave the college fantasy world behind.

Obviously, at some point we millennials need to grow up and become adults, but a little guidance and occasional intervening in the first post-college job search will teach a twentysomething how to properly handle the next search, on his or her own.

Thanks to his years of extensive networking and corporate climbing at a well respected non-profit, my father helped me get an internship at Merrill Lynch one summer and a local accounting firm the next. Of course, I had to create a resume (with a lot of help from my parents), set up an interview, and go through the entire process like everyone else. But I never would have had the chance if my parents hadn’t intervened.

I think the bigger issue here is companies are worried that all of this parental hovering may cost them money. The majority of entry-level workers are probably underpaid. It’s easy to make a 22-year-old an offer and say, “Take it or leave it.” Most young workers will end up accepting because they don’t know what they are really worth. If an experienced parent acts as an agent and coaches their kid through the process or even involves themselves in the process, that entry-level worker just may get the offer they deserve.

Of course, there should be limits to just how involved a parent should be. The last thing you want to do is cost your kid a job. And once the job search is over, please don’t call human resources to check up on me. But if you know what you are doing, then go ahead and help your kid land that first dream job. The corporations might not be too happy about it, but if the trend keeps up, all they can do is learn to deal with it.

Ryan Healy’s blogs is Employee Evolution.

In many respects, changing careers is like dumping your significant other. It’s a lot easier to do than solving the problems you’re facing. But in so many cases, hard work and self-knowledge could solve most of the problems. And I have found — in both careers and relationships — that if I get through a tough spot, I learn way more about myself and the world than if I had left and started over. I already know the starting over routine very well. But I don’t know so much about the sticking with it routine.

Each of us is probably better at one or the other. If you are great at starting over, but not so great at sticking with it, I can’t help you with your significant other, but I can help you with your career. Here are five situations when you should not change careers.

1. You hate your boss. This is not a problem with your career. Change jobs instead of changing careers. Or, get better at managing your boss to get the treatment you want.

2. You want more prestige. Get a therapist – you’re having a confidence crisis, not a career crisis. Prestige is a hollow goal when it comes to careers. The quest for interesting, fun, rewarding work is one thing, but the quest for fame is, in fact, bad for you emotionally.

3. You want to meet new people. Try going to a bar, or Club Med. Is the problem that you are not able to make friends in your industry? It would have to be a pretty small industry for this to not be your own, social problem as opposed to an industry-wide problem. Be honest with yourself: Maybe what you really want is to get a life. Pick up a hobby.

4. You want more meaning in life. A job does not give life meaning. And anyway, people have been searching for the meaning of life forever. It’s a highly disputed topic, and probably too charged an issue to lay on your career.

5. You want more happiness. I have said many times that your job does not control your happiness, your mind does. Here’s good news, though: You can give your mind a happier disposition by meditating. I like that there is science behind this (thanks, Dylan). But I was a meditation convert as a volleyball player, before I knew the science.

One of the best ways to teach your body how to do something, by the way, is to watch yourself doing it perfectly, in your mind. I taught myself to jump serve by imagining the serve in my head. I divided the serve into twenty motions. And I imagined them all. Thousands of times. (Wait, look: I am so pleased to have found this video of jump serving.)

But you can’t jump serve if you’re tense. So I had to learn to calm my body through meditation while I imagined the jump serves. Each night I meditated, and instead of focusing on the traditional “om” chant, I focused on the ball.

That was my favorite part of my whole volleyball career. This is how I know that you can make yourself like your career better — any career — by meditating: another reason you don’t have to change careers.

Here is a list of some reviews of my book, Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success. I really appreciate that so many people took the time to review the book. Thank you! (There are more reviews than these — I’ll post another list next Monday.)

Joanne Bamberger at Punditmom
An amazing little volume that should be on everyone’s bookshelf.

Rowan Manahan at Fortify Your Oasis
Brazen Careerist covers the ground that other careers books shy away from. It is pertinent (sometimes impertinent!), immediately applicable and a joy to read. If you are looking for ideas to synchronize your working and personal lives into a “harmonious adventure” that you pursue on your own terms, then get yourself a copy. Penelope never disappoints.

Cody McKibben at Pursuing Excellence
Penelope’s new book, Brazen Careerist, picks up where Tom [Peters] left off. The name not only describes Trunk’s bold approach to work, but it delivers on its promise to key readers in to the important ingredients in a recipe for delicious career success!

Diane Danielson at Downtown Women’s Club
Managers and more senior employees should take a gander too. It might shake up some of your beliefs, but it also might help you better understand why young people think a bit differently about their careers.

Marshall Sponder at Web Metrics Guru
Brazen Careerist is much different than any career book I’ve seen before this. Penelope cuts her own path and makes a convincing case for her approach to the workplace.

Frank Roche at KnowHR Blog
Brazen Careerist is a book that should be read by everyone under 40 who wants to know the real deal in corporate America. And it should scare the crap out of those over 40.”

Ramit Sethi at I Will Teach You To Be Rich
She has attitude. I mean that in a good way. You can actually hear her in her writing.

Maureen Rogers at Pink Slip
Brazen Careerist is an advice book that is actually well-written, sharp, and funny.

And here are earlier reviews
By Guy Kawasaki, Bob Sutton and Keith Ferrazzi

The job hunt of the new millennium is not sending out resumes and going to interviews. For the most part, it’s casually talking to people. And they don’t want a ten-minute story as an answer to the question, “What do you do.” They want an “elevator pitch” — one or two sentences that you could get out in as fast as an elevator ride. It’s a very short answer, but that’s why it’s so hard. Because we think of ourselves as so complicated and multidimensional, but the answer must be simple and straightforward.

My grandma once told me that if you don’t have a lot of money, be sure to buy nice shoes because you wear them every day, so every day you’ll have something nice to wear. (I realize now that the idea of a closet full of shoes was foreign to her generation. But you get the point.) Investing time and money in your answer to the question What do you do? is a lot like buying that good pair of shoes, because you will have to answer that question, in one form or another, almost every day.

So I’m happy to say that this week’s Coachology is working with Laura Allen, who specializes in helping people answer the question, What do you do? You can work with her for free, for 90 minutes, to hone your elevator pitch about who you are.

Laura, through her company 15SecondPitch, helps people to see themselves and their vision for their career in a way that will make immediate sense to other people. And, really, that’s the way you get what you want in your career — by communicating well with other people.

If you want to work with Laura, send an email to me with three sentences telling why you want to work with her. The deadline is May 6.

Hello everyone in Cleveland. I’ll be there Monday night, and after years of writing columns and blogging, I’m really excited to meet people face-to-face.

I’ll be at Artefino at 6:30, with no particular agenda except to get to know you. If there is a small crowd, we can have coffee and chat. If there’s a large crowd, I’ll speak about something — maybe the book, maybe my plane flight, who knows…

The book isn’t out yet. So I won’t be selling it there. You could say this is sort of a pre-book tour stop on the book tour. I look forward to seeing you!

Most of us will change careers at least three times in our lives. And most of us will be nervous at one point or another in the process.

Invariably, you’re giving up the known to pursue the unknown. So, even if you hate your current career, it’s still scary to give it up.

Five Steps to a New Life

I have a lot of experience in this arena. I’ve changed careers a lot, going from professional beach volleyball player to software marketer to entrepreneur to freelance writer. While I was doing that, my husband changed careers three times in five years.

Each change was different and difficult in its own way for both of us. But I’ve learned some tricks along the way to make career changes easier.

Here are five ideas to consider in your own career change:

1. Test things out before you make the leap.

You don’t need to quit your current job to get started in a new career. Give yourself a chance to test things out. Try it on vacation or on the weekend. Try an internship — there’s no rule that says an intern has to be 19 years old.

It’s very hard to predict what you’ll like. Once you admit this and really try things out, you’re much more likely to be accurate about what you’re well-suited to do next.

The most effective way to make the very serious move of changing careers is to try out that career in a not-so-serious way. I’ve done this in the past, and I once discovered that I didn’t end up liking the new career. This tactic can save you a lot of large missteps.

2. Talk about your change in a way that will make it happen.

When people ask you what you do — or, even better, what you want to do — you need an effective answer. Tell people what you’re aiming to do and why it makes sense. This little speech is what will allow people to help you make that career change.

Laura Allen, co-founder of 15 Second Pitch, helps people figure out what to say when they want to make a career change. The key to answering the question “what do you do” is knowing yourself and knowing why you want to change. Once you know that, the pitch will come more easily.

3. Keep your significant other in the loop.

A career change is so emotionally and financially profound that it’s practically a joint decision if you’re living with a significant other. I learned this the hard way, when my husband changed careers.

As a career advisor, I had a lot of opinions about what he should be doing, but I didn’t want to step on his toes so I tried to leave him alone to make the decisions himself. But I started getting nervous about the instability his choices might create.

There’s a definite balance you need to strike between wanting to support your partner in chasing his or her career dreams, and wanting to maintain sanity in the relationship while the chase is on. Keeping your partner in the loop, not just about what you’re doing but also what you’re thinking, can go a long way toward creating a team feeling.

4. Make the change before you go nuts.

Most people hold out in a career until it’s clear that it’s not for them. All change is hard. We like to be stimulated and interested, but most of us don’t like constant change. It’s too stressful, so we find ways to avoid it.

The problem is that if you put off change for too long you compromise your ability to orchestrate it. I spent a lot of my career with the bad habit of letting myself bottom out before I made a big change, so take it from me — the change is much harder to manage when you’re operating from a place of desperation and exhaustion.

5. Downplay financial issues.

I write a lot about how you don’t need a lot of money to be happy. In fact, research shows that you only need $40,000 to be happy, and that the rest of the money you earn has little impact on your happiness.

But Tim Ferriss takes this one step further. In his book, “The 4-Hour Workweek,” he starts with the idea that time and flexibility are worth more in life than money. So when you think about if you can afford to make the change, think in terms of your net gain in time and flexibility rather than in money.

Anticipating the Risk

Career change is always risky. But if you have a good understanding of why you’re leaving your current career and choosing the new one, the clarity can give you the strength to endure instability and uncertainty.

At some point, your self-awareness will make the career change your only viable alternative. Then it’ll seem like a relatively low-risk move.

By Will Schwalbe — Some of the most polite things people say can take on a totally different character when you write them in an email or in an IM or text message. Here are some examples.

1. Please
We are taught from an early age to say “please” when we ask for things. “Can I have some milk” doesn’t, in most houses, get milk to the requester. It has to be, “Please, can I have some milk.” (In the home of an English teacher, it would need to be, “Please, may I have some milk,” but that’s another matter).

So we are conditioned to believe that “please” is a polite word. And it can be, when it’s said politely. But it’s also often used in a preemptory, scolding, or sarcastic tone. “Please remember” usually has the implication of, “You’ve been told this before. Why can’t you remember? Is it so hard?” The same goes for “Please make sure to….” or “Please don’t forget…” or, basically, the word “please” with any command other than something obviously and overwhelmingly positive like “be my guest” or “help yourself” or “stay as long as you like.”

Curiously, in the very informal research my co-author David Shipley and I conducted, we found that the abbreviation “pls” doesn’t carry this scolding tone. But, as with all abbreviations, it’s clearly more appropriate for casual communication.

2. Okay and fine
These usually sound upbeat in speech but deflating in print. We live in a culture of hyperbole, and both words have suffered from it. In email, “great” equals “fine” and “good” equals “okay.” So it’s a good idea to make the substitution if you don’t want to disappoint. This is especially true when the words appear alone. If you write someone a long and detailed proposal and get back one word, and that word is “fine” or “okay,” it appears to be anything but. And who can forget the immortal phrase Fine, ferget it,” from the Travolta/Winger classic Urban Cowboy? The exasperated way it was said is exactly how it looks on a screen.

3. Thank you
The problem with “thank you” comes not when you use it after someone has done something for you, but when you use it before the person has done the thing. When you thank someone in advance, it’s really a command disguised as premature gratitude. So, “Thank you for bringing the donuts to the meeting” is nice if the meeting has occurred and the donuts were brought. But it’s galling to be thanked if the meeting is yet to take place, and really infuriating if the meeting has taken place and you were supposed to bring the donuts and forgot. Then it’s pure sarcasm.

Will Schwalbe is the co-author with David Shipley of Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home.

People often tell me that I should answer more questions from readers. I do actually answer a lot of questions, but I don’t put them in a Q&A format. People say they like the Q&A format. But I don’t believe people like it as much as they say they do.

I confess, however, to really liking Dan Savage’s Q&A column. But I think he makes up his own questions. Which makes me feel free to do a Q&A column where I make up all the questions myself.

Question #1

Dear Penelope,
What should I do to look more like a leader?

Penelope's old boss

Dear Sir,
Stop biting your nails! Remember that Monday team meeting when you tried to get us excited about sales goals? When we asked about looming layoffs, you started biting your nails in between the it'll-be-okay sentences. I remember you putting your fingers in your mouth, trying to get one more millimeter. Bloody tips. I knew I was going to be laid off.

You are a nice guy, and so smart, but you seem to have no knowledge of how you come across to other people. Biting nails does not convey self-confidence. And no one wants to be lead by a nail-biter. People who bite their nails at work amaze me: Do you think biting nails is any more appropriate than pulling out hair at work? It is psychologically the same thing: compulsive, nervous, unrestrained.

Do people keep up this habit when they are feeling great about themselves? No. In other words, leaders don't do this stuff (and if so, never in public). You think nail biting is small, innocuous. But really, you kill your credibility. And you did it way before the layoffs, mister.

Question #2

Dear Penelope,
How did you do so well in business when you got an F in my chemistry class?

Penelope's high school chemistry teacher

Dr. Mr. X
First of all, you were so incredibly good looking that you must believe that I really did want to get to class. I just couldn't fit it into my schedule. I had a free period before chemistry and all my friends had a free period during chemistry. I was compelled to think of those two periods as a double-header block of time to hang out.

And thank you for trying to give me a D, really. Your efforts were valiant, especially when you gave me the smartest guy in the class for a lab partner.

Fortunately, study after study shows that kids who do poorly in school can do very well in the real world. The things that really matter in the real world are not chemistry lab tests (unless you want to be a chemist.) The things that matter are perseverance, passion and risk-taking – all attributes that, quite frankly, I exhibited as I ditched chemistry class.

Question #3

Dear Penelope,
You are so talented and insightful, but I am just a little more talented and insightful. So I'd like to mentor you. Can you please send your phone number to me so I can start investing my time and energy in you immediately?

Your Fairy Godmother

Hold it. Why does no one send this mail? Getting a mentor is hard, even for Penelope, who constantly writes about how important it is to get a mentor and is always on the prowl. This shows why the Q&A exercise is a good one for everyone: If you write enough letters you'll discover what you’d most like to receive in the mail.

And you will realize that it will never arrive. But before you can reach any goal in this world, you have to know that you want it. So take the first step, and write yourself letters until one strikes you as especially important. And that will help you to focus on what you really want right now.